Now that the colder weather has set in, many of us will be wishing the year away, praying for to come around again summer. Out of all of the seasons of the year, however, winter has to be the most nostalgia-filled of the four. There is nothing like this time of year that makes people reminisce about their own past, as well as the traditions of bygone eras. But, with the shifting sands of time, some traditions fade from memory and can disappear all together.
Here we look at some British traditions that often go under the radar:
Penny for the guy
Although the tradition of making a bonfire every 5th of November is still roaring on after four centuries, the creating of a ‘guy’ and asking for a penny seems to have faded from towns all over Britain. Usually by stuffing old clothes full of straw, the ‘guy’ was then dragged around the local area, as its creators asked passers-by for any funds for their efforts. It was often seen by children as a way to make some extra pocket money.
Also, when it comes to Bonfire Night itself, the effigy was placed on the wooden structure and set alight, whilst people would traditionally tuck into baked potatoes, hot dogs and toffee apples.
In the South West of England, cider is most people’s favourite tipple and, with many parts of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and the Cotswolds producing their own variations of the popular alcoholic drink.
The tradition of Orchard-visiting wassailing, which dates back to the early nineteenth century, consists of crowds of people assembling to sing traditional folk songs to the apple trees of an orchard with the aim of scaring away evil spirits in mid-January. It is also believed the singing (along with some banging of pots and pans) takes place for the apples to wake up and for the harvest the following autumn to be a fruitful one. Once a gunman fires to signal the end of the ceremony, the crowd then moves onto the next orchard to begin the process once more.
Robert Burns, the writer of many famous poems, was born in Scotland in 1759, but his influence still lives on – to a certain extent – through the celebration of his birthday every 25th January. Although the date may be acknowledged by some, the tradition of participating in a ceremony to celebrate Burns may not be so well remembered.
Starting with a soup, usually Scotch broth or a cock-a-leekie soup, guests are then expected to rise and stand for the haggis to enter, led by a traditional Scottish piper, who often plays A Man’s A Man for A’ That as the dish is placed at the head table. This is then followed by the host reciting A toast to the Haggis, which was written by Robert Burns, before guests are invited to dine.
Following courses may include oatcakes, cheese and whisky trifle before the evening closes with a rendition of Auld Lang Syne.
Watching winter through your Bi-Fold doors that you got from Gloucestershire, while you’re wrapped up inside, you can be forgiven for thinking that the fun for the year has gone. However, we hope these winter traditions have given you some inspiration for making the most of the colder season.